Giving and stewardship are not always fun topics to talk about. In large part, this is because we in the Church have not done a good job of addressing these issues in the past, and, on the parish level, we have sometimes failed to teach and uphold God's word on the subject. We have also failed to offer instruction about the benefits - and the responsibility - of providing for the Church's material needs. It can cost a lot of money to operate a parish and school.
So, what's the main idea? God demands something specific of us: not just our time, not just our worship on Sundays, but also the firstfruits of our earthly wealth. He commands, "Thou shalt not appear empty before me." (Ex 23: 15)
Why does he demand this? He has no need of money: he is perfectly self-sufficient and needs nothing from us. But he knows us better than we know ourselves, and he knows that, left to our own devices, we tend toward a desire to make more and more money and acquire more and more stuff. Our culture does nothing to help us fight against this desire. What does help us fight? Giving!
The idea is simple: as long as we consider our money and possessions to be ours, we will tend toward greed and acquisitiveness because we lack trust in God to provide for us.
But when we offer God the firstfruits of our income, we can't help but remember that everything that we have is a gift from God, down to our very life, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. This causes a huge change in us: it shows us that we rely on God for all that we have, not on ourselves. By giving up some of what we "earn for ourselves", we come to know that God is really the source of all the good things we have, and we come to trust in him and his love for us rather than in our own efforts. We learn to place less emphasis on the passing things of this life and focus more on God and his plan for us.
If you are facing financial difficulties and don't think you are capable of giving, or of giving as much as you would like, don't worry. There are some steps you can take.
- First, consider participating in Financial Peace University, a "biblically based curriculum that teaches people how to handle money God's ways," developed by Dave Ramsey and offered twice each year here at St. John's. Please contact Mitzi Phalen at email@example.com if you have questions.
- Second, remember that 10% is the goal. As with most goals, you will have a better chance of success if you work toward it in stages rather than going for it all at once. Start out by prayerfully choosing a dollar amount that you can give each week. Write it into your budget, and stick with it. If you spend too much one week, try to find another place in your budget to make it up, instead of reducing the amount you are giving. When you are ready, take the important step of choosing a percentage of your income that you can offer. Gradually increase the percentage until you reach the goal of 10%.
If you are facing serious financial difficulties, contact the parish office at (301) 373-2281 or the St. John's Charitable Society at (240) 577-5596. We may be able to help.
So what is God's word when it comes to giving?
- "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee." (Gn 28: 20-22)
- "Then Araunah said to David, 'Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.' And Araunah said to the king, 'The LORD your God accept you.' But the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will buy it of you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD heeded supplications for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel." (2 Sam 24: 22-25)
- "Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts." (Mal. 3: 8-12)
- "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Mt 23: 23)
- "And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to entrap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?' But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, 'Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.' And they brought one. And he said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to him, 'Caesar's.' Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'" (Mk 12: 13-17)
- "And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.'" (Mk 12: 41-44)
- "Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man' s life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth." (Lk 12: 15)
- "'And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'" (Lk 12: 29-34)
- "Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings." (Lk 16: 9)
- "'He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.'" (Lk 16: 10-13)
- "[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.' So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, 'He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.' And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.' And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.'" (Lk 19: 1-10)
We use Faith Direct to make things easier for our parishioners who wish to contribute to the Church's needs. Faith Direct is a direct debit offertory system that allows you to give to St. John's automatically via credit card or bank account. You set your monthly offering amount and they do the rest. Click here for more information. St. John's parish code is MD116.
You can also contribute using the offertory envelopes that can be ordered through the parish office.